A few observations on hunger, extracted from the latest FAO report on The State of Food Insecurity, 2015
1. The percent of humanity that’s hungry is at an all-time low.
According to FAO, 11.3% of the world is undernourished. Most of that hunger is concentrated in the developing world. There, an estimated 12.9% of people are undernourished. In absolute terms, this is a staggering 780 million people. Yet as a fraction of humanity, it’s just over half of the fraction in 1990.
Going back further, FAO estimates that in 1969, 33% of the developing world (or around 875 million people) lived in hunger. Even as population has roughly doubled since 1969, the percent of the world living in hunger has dropped by almost a factor of three.
2. Countries Once Synonymous with Hunger Have Made Huge Progress
Ethiopia, as one example, has cut its hunger rate in half. At more than 30%, it’s still tremendously too high. But the trendline is extremely encouraging. Other examples, both good and bad, abound in report.
3. Every Large Region of the World Has Seen its Percent Hungry Drop
Latin America has cut its hunger rate in a third. Asia’s has dropped by half. Even Africa – the large region with the slowest progress , has seen the proportion of its people living in hunger drop by a quarter, from 27% to 20%.
That said, Africa’s reduction in the percent of people living in hunger has been slower than its population growth. So the absolute number living in hunger has climbed there by 50 million people.
4. Higher Economic Growth Correlates with Lower Hunger
Not surprisingly, the countries that have higher per-capita growth rates see lower rates of hunger. Growth matters.
5. More Industrialized Agriculture Means Less Hunger
Also not at all surprisingly, countries where agriculture is more industrialized have dramatically lower rates of hunger. The graph below shows a measure of agricultural worker productivity. Towards the left are countries where agriculture is extremely labor intensive. Towards the right are countries where a small fraction of the population grow the food, using more modern means.
The further right on the scale one goes, the lower hunger drops.
6. Instability, Civil War, and Crisis are the Biggest Drivers of Hunger
Where are people most likely to be hungry? In countries that lack stability, are going through internal armed conflict, or otherwise exist in a state of protracted crisis.
Reasons to Be Optimistic
Despite the problems the sections above close on, we’ve cut the percent of people who live in hunger nearly in half since 1990. And the trend line is consistently down. While much work remains to be done, and great hurdles still exist, the likelihood is that hunger will be even more scarce a decade or two from now.